Missing the Northeast: Everyday opportunities

I find that many of these columns either start or focus around me comparing the Northeast to where I live now. When I pull myself back from what I have written, it always kind of makes me laugh because, although I completely agree with every word in front of me, I really do like where I live now and can see myself being up here in northern New Jersey for a long time.

That being said, there are a few obstacles I constantly run into that I would never come across if I still lived in the Northeast.

Places to Go, People to See

Admittedly, the town where I currently reside is super nice, fully bringing the word “quaint” to life. Everything about where I live just looks nice, and just about everybody who lives here is usually overwhelmingly jovial.

The big problem, though, is that, as somebody who works the conventional hours of around 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., I never have the opportunity to enjoy any of it because just about everything closes around 5 p.m. Nothing is open on Sundays and, even if I happen to be around on Saturday, the hours are even shorter.

One of my roommates, a Long Island native, recently said he wants to get out of New Jersey and back to New York where he can go to a bar and get a sandwich delivered to him whenever he wants.

Now I’m not asking that stores be open for 24 hours or that bars be open until sunrise; I can survive on a handful of groceries, and my bar trips are very infrequent and even less frequently of my own volition.

But, honestly, it would be nice to be able to do something at, say, 9 p.m. if I feel like it (note that I live in New Jersey, known for its diners, and those even close before sunset around here). Gas stations in New Jersey, where it is illegal to pump your own gas, even tend to close early, unless they are located on or by a highway.

Although the population density of a metropolitan area like Philadelphia can be perceived as a detriment in some situations, it is definitely a boon when it comes to availability of various stores and restaurants.

When I’m down in the Northeast and hungry, I might head over to the Wawa in Parkwood. Or if it’s late and I have nothing to do or have a few minutes to spare, as was the case when I was home during the Easter weekend, I’ll occasionally head to the 24-hour Wal-Mart at Franklin Mills. Just because I can.

Road Trip

Another fortunate byproduct of population density is that everything tends to be virtually around the corner from you at all times. Of course, this comes with its problems, but it’s nice to be able to walk right around a corner to quench a thirst, withdraw money from the bank or go bowling with a bunch of friends.

Now, unless you’re looking for a Dunkin’ Donuts, shady liquor store or even shadier dry cleaner, that isn’t so much the case in New Jersey. As I mentioned, where I live is extremely aesthetically satisfying — a great advantage to more green and less brick.

But as a person who has put 90,000 miles on his car in just three years (mostly driving to and from work, including extended detours around nearly daily highway traffic jams), driving just about everywhere can get a bit tedious.

Although not the greatest feeling in 10-degree weather in the middle of February, I loved simply being able to walk to and from high school every day just because I could, possibly stopping at Wendy’s on the way home. Many people I work with have to take their kids across two highways to take them to school…and Wendy’s would probably be another highway away.

Tune in Next Month…

Check back next month for a few additional obstacles to living away from home that lead to me missing the Northeast.

Missing the Northeast is a column written by Stephen Wilson, a former Northeast resident who moved to New Jersey for work. You can read his column on the last Monday of every month.

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